Several things occurred to me thinking back on my experiences at two Field Day locations this year. First, while operating CW in a county emergency police communication trailer that was sometimes full of visitors and other operators, I realized how this might have simulated an emergency situation.
There was a lot of noise from many voices of visitors and operators on SSB. Coming prepared with a good set of noise-canceling headphones allowed me to fully concentrate on my efforts contacting a series of very weak stations on 80m.
From the visitors perspective I wished I had been somewhat less intent on making contacts and more engaging with those visiting our Field Day site. I missed opportunities to talk about what I was doing and how it might relate to a real emergency situation and what makes this so interesting and vital to me.
I also realized the importance of proper diet for a long stint at the operating position. This year I worked two 8-hour shifts on CW. In both cases I came prepared with food that kept me nourished but never left me feeling sluggish. Again, in a true emergency situation it’s important to stay fresh and alert especially as the hours roll by and there may not be someone to relieve you at your station. I realize my long shifts were probably somewhat extreme but could happen in an emergency, so I took it as a good test of my ability to handle a long stretch of operating. In one case I worked 2000 to 0400 hours, having just come off an operating stint of 1000 to 1600 with a brief nap in between.
I also learned subsequently that I had my paddle improperly adjusted which caused significant hand fatigue over the course of my two 8-hour stints. I noticed the quality of my fist kept deteriorating as the hours rolled by. I was really struggling to send well, even in short bursts. I was unable to unlock the secret of how to enable the memory function of the rig I was at in one location, so all my sending was done manually.
Several evenings later, while taking copying ARRL code practice the text being sent was a QST excerpt from 2009 about correct key adjustment to minimize hand and arm stress. After practice ended I downloaded the PDF and read the full article which was actually about adjusting a straight key. It turns that the advice offered fits pretty well for paddles as well. So I loosened up my settings and discovered I could send lengthy passages with much greater ease and less muscle strain.
Finally, this field day taught me about the importance of adapting to equipment whose operation was unfamiliar to me. In an emergency it’s likely that operators may not have their own gear, so being able to quickly figure out and adapt to an unfamiliar rig and its interface is important.